Published in the Kirkcudbrightshire Advertiser on 6th June 1913, this article examines the people of the parish through it's monumental inscriptions.

The Churchyards of the Stewartry.

XXIX – Borgue. By "J. M."

The parish of Borgue forms a most interesting corner of the Stewartry, its place-names varying from Gaelic to Norse, as doubtless is fortunes did in past ages, the coastline being lengthy in proportion to landward area, giving the marauding Northmen special facilities for leaving their impress. Geologically, the land has been specially favoured for providing excellent grazing, as also in its shore caves retaining pre-historic remains of much value to archaeologists. It has been termed the Hybla of Scotland, but though three districts in Sicily claim to be the real source of the honey of which ancient poets sang and the best authorities of today decline to adjudicate, no doubt whatever is entertained as to the claims of Borgue. Some say that Irish settlers has a predilection for mead which almost amounted to a religious observance, and that this and the frequence of Helianthemum made the parish thus famous. The whole area is a paradise for the botanist, and this doubtless has been found out by the bees and their keepers as well.

The present church, which bears on its eastern gable the date 1814, is cruciform in plan, with a long extension near the north-east angle. The windows are of a familiar type of perpendicular, with tall mullions surmounted by a low-pitched arch: but the west door, approached by a flight of steps, has a deeply moulded elliptical head which has a striking effect, the semi-circular or the pointed arch being more frequently seen in such a situation. The churchyard surrounds the church, and in some of the more recent extensions several neat modern monuments exist. A few quaint sculptures adorn some of the older memorials, and those are generally in good preservation.
Ministers of the Parish.

The oldest memorial to a clergyman is that to the Rev. James Brown, a native of the parish. This is a large thrugh with the following inscription “Here with his children Rachel & Alex. rests the Rev’d Dr James Brown, aged 45, in death, who finished a short ministry, viz: of nine years and a half, with lasting honour, March 28th 1751. Early and sincere piety with equal modesty, gravity & fidelity, purity of life & doctrine, firmness of friendship, sweetness of manners, do embalm his memory, which shall outlive this brittle stone. Erected by his mourfull relict, Mrs Mary Kirkpatrick.”

Mr Brown was ordained in 1741, and four years afterwards married Mary, daughter of Mr John Kirkpatrick, Provost of Kirkcudbright. They had three sons and a daughter, and Mrs Brown died 12th July 1756.

The next incumbent was the Rev. David Forbes, to whom a similar memorial stands near. It is inscribed as follows :- “To the memory of the Rev’d David Forbes, late minister of Borgue, who died upon the 22nd of Nov’r 1791 in the 76th year of his age and the 40th of his ministry. If modest merit & true politeness, genuine piety & active goodness adorn the character of the faithfull pastor & the worthy man, long will his name be held in sweet remembrance by all his friends.”

After this tribute follows a record of children – Catherine and two Rachels – and – “Also Margaret Welsh, his spouse, who died upon the 22nd Jan’y 1802, aged 67 years.”

It is on record that Mr Forbes had been a “governor” in the family of Murray of Broughton, and that he was ordained in 1751. After this the Presbytery designed a glebe for him ; but the Lords found in 1755 that he had glebes at Senwick and Kirkandrews in addition to that at Borgue, and thus more than a legal allowance for arable land and grass. He had three sons and four daughters.

Mr Forbes was followed by the Rev. Samuel Smith. To Mr Smith and several members of his family some fine vertical tablets of polished red granite have been erected. On one of these is the following :- “To the memory of the Rev’d Samuel Smith, late pastor of this parish, who died 6th March 1816, in the 59th year of his age, and 33rd of his ministry. He was ordained minister of Carsphairn in 1783 and translated to this charge in 1792.”

A subsequent record is that of his wife – “Janet Carruthers, who died at Edinburgh Novr. 1831, aged 73 years.”

Mr Smith is said to have been an excellent preacher and a frequent visitor among all classes in the parish. He wrote accounts of the parishes of Carsphairn and Borgue which appear in Sinclair’s Series; as also a General View of the Agriculture of Galloway, published London 1810. Amongst the many merits of this latter work may be found perhaps the best practical treatise extant of the building of dry stone fences, a subject which does not seem to have been extensively written upon.

Mrs Smith was the only daughter of James Carruthers, merchant, Dumfries; and their family consisted of three sons – James, of South Carleton; John, merchant, New York,; Samuel, a successor in the parish – and five daughters.

Mr Smith was succeeded by the Rev. James Gordon, who is thus recorded :- “Sacred to the memory of the Rev’d James Gordon, who was ordained minister of Borgue, September 1816, and who died 8th April 1834, in the 49th year of his age, and the 18th of his ministry. Also of Isabella Henry, his relict, who died 14th August 1874, in the 85th year of her age. “Thine eyes shall see the King in his beauty, they shall behold the land that is very far off”. Also of their daughter Jessie Gordon, born 8th February 1824, died 23rd November 1875. “When the ear heard her then it blessed her, and when the eye saw her it gave witness to her.”

Mr Gordon was a son of Mr Thomas Gordon, Culraven, a farm occupied by the family for several generations; and Mrs Gordon was a daughter of Mr James Henry, Bishopton. They had four sons and two daughters, Thomas becoming minister at Newbattle.

Mr Gordon was succeeded by Samuel, youngest son of his predecessor, who has the following record :- “Sacred to the memory of the Rev’d Samuel Smith, son of the Rev’d Samuel Smith and Janet his wife, he was ordained minister of this parish in 1834, became minister of the Free Church in 1843, and died at Lothian Bank, Dalkeith, 22nd June 1868, aged 70 years. Agnes William Wotherspoon, wife of the said Rev Samuel Smith, who died at Moffat, 1st Nov 1894, aged 90.”

The next incumbent was Rev. William Reid, but it does not appear that there is any memorial in the churchyard. He was minister of the parish from 1843 to 1858.

A granite memorial bears the name of his successor :- “Erected by the parishioners of Borgue in memory of the Rev Charles Baxter Makay who died at Borgue Manse 30th June 1866 in the 30th year of age and 9th of his ministry.”

A longer tenure was that of his successor, Dr Cook, whose labours will long be held in remembrance, and whose family monument, to the east of the church, is thus inscribed :- “Sacred to the memory of Jane Halket Pattullo, for upwards of forty-four years the dearly loved wife of the Revd. George Cook, D.D., minister of Borgue. She died at Borgue Manse 12th November 1886, deeply lamented. Also in memory of the Revd, George Cook, D.D., Minister of this parish from 1867 to 1888, who died 29th Feb. 1888, aged 75 years.”

On the base at bottom is inscribed – “Blessed are the pure at heart, for they shall see God.”


No record of the full century was observed.

Quaint Memorials.

A small upright stone, about 3 feet 9 inches in height, standing to the south west of the church, has a curious group of sculpture on its western face, evidently representing a father, mother, and child. The dexter, a male figure, like all the others, is almost naked, and stands on a coffin with his left hand crossed on his breast and the right hanging down. The sinister (female) figure stands on a skull, with a bent right arm , and the left hanging down. In the centre the child stands on a small pedestal linking its arms with those of its parents. The figures are fairly outlined, with the exception of the hands – a matter on which even modern painters come to grief. The hair in each instance is curiously peaked out over the ear. Over the group hovers a full-face shadowing with wings; and a floral scroll hangs down each side, and a winged hour-glass appears below the dexter end and cross-bones at the sinister. There is also a leaf pattern on the edges of the stone; and beneath the group, partly buried, is a well-cut inscription in record thus :- “Here lyes the Corpse of David McKissock, who died Jany. 9, 1763, aged 16 years.” “John” and others follow; whilst on the back appears Alexander, aged 46 years, in 1773; and Katherine, aged 3 months, in 1770.

On a large upright headstone the following patheric tribute is inscribed :- “In hopes of a blessed resurrection, here rest the remains of Harrison, the son of Harrison and Dinah Bell of Maryport, who was wrecked and drowned near this place with four more of the brig Favourite’s crew on the 2nd of February 1807. This stone is erected by filial tenderness for a beloved son. From Borea’s blasts and Neptune’s waves, I come to harbour underneath this silent tomb, where Aeclus does not presume to blow, nor angry Neptune dash me to and fro, sweetly becalmed to hope’s blest anchor, moor’d till that great day, the coming of the Lord.”

Eminent Parishioners.

The parish has produced people which attained eminence in several walks of life, but of these some will be noticed under the headings of Senwick and Kirkandrews.

Descended from the clergymen of the parish, Samuel Smith of Carleton, long Member of Parliament for Flintshire, is well remembered for the part he took in great social questions.

One who became a clergyman is also here recorded on his father’s family tombstone in the person of the Rev. A. McMaster, minister of Kirkbean, to whom a special monument also stands in the parish which was under his charge.

In addition to the notice of the second Samuel Smith becoming a minister of the Free Church at the Disruption, a successor to that charge is commemorated on a neat tombstone to the east of the church and near to that of Dr Cook which is inscribed as follows :- “Erected by the congregation and friends, in loving memory of the Revd George Ogilvy Elder, M.A., who was for 32 years minister of the Free Church in this parish. Born at Kirkbuddo, Forfarshire, 9th Feb 1840, died at F.C. Manse, Borgue, 1st Aug 1899. “He giveth his beloved sleep.”

Mr Elder was held in high esteem, and amongst other literary labours published two small treatises of great local interest, one on Galloway and one on the parish of Borgue.

The churchyard also holds evidences of the tented field as well as the pulpit and the pen. One of these may be quoted, and the three foreign place-names of “Guadeloupe,” “Corunna,” “and Martinique,” engraved over the head of the subject matter, must stir every student of history. Beneath and within these is a shield with the motto “I mean well,” which is a record of – “Captain Alexander MacKenzie Shaw, of the 92nd Highlanders, who died at Gatehouse, the 21st June 1832, aged 72 years.”

Again, but a little way off, on a headstone bearing the names of Wilson and Sproat, is a record of the death of John Wilson, of the 17th Lancers, in the charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava.

The illustrious parishioner who took part in and long survived this celebrated charge has an elegant mausoleum a little further to the westward. Descended from a long line of ancesters conspicuous for bravery and strenuous exertions in the cause of liberty, from their sympathy with Wycliffe onward through the trials of the Covenant, Sir William Gordon of Earlston practised what he inherited, and after long bearing the burden and heat of the day, spent the evening of his life as a humble parishioner in the paths of peace. This life is so well known that a simple record of its close will suffice – “Sacred to the memory of Lt Colonel Sir William Gordon, Bart of Earlston, one of the six hundred in the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava 25th Oct 1854, born 20th October 1830, died 12th May 1906. “Let them that love God, be as the son when he goeth forth in his might. Christ the first fruits, afterward they that are Christ’s.” – 1 Cor. Xv., 23.”


In a total of 233 surnames, Gordon takes the first place with 16 instances. This is followed by Henry with 11. Porter and Sproat are equal with 10; whilst brown, Corrie, and Smith follow with 8; and Houston with 7.